Hypergraphia is a condition that causes people to transcribe their thoughts uncontrollably. I don't suffer from it in the clinical sense, but I may be borderline. My blog is the cyber-wall where I spray paint my thoughts for all to see. By the way, if you came here directly through blogger --if your page has no yellow frames and no pretty pic of me in the top left corner -- you may want to visit my main site at www.hypergraffiti.com, where you can read this blog and much much more.


I'm Trudy Morgan-Cole, a writer from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. My books include "The Violent Friendship of Esther Johnson," "Esther: A Story of Courage," and "Deborah and Barak." I'm also a married mom of two, a teacher in an adult-ed program, and a Christian of the Seventh-day Adventist kind. I blog about writing, reading, parenting, teaching, spirituality, and shiny things that catch my eye.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday: Come Dancing

It's Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent, which is an important date in my personal calendar, though not in the calendar of my church. If you're interested in a more nuanced discussion of why a nice Adventist girl (OK, relatively nice) observes Lent, you may read an article I wrote about it here. I'll avoid repeating myself and simply say that I have observed the pentitential season of Lent as a private spiritual practice for about five years now, and for me it lends a lot of meaning to an otherwise bleak and gloomy season of the year.

So today that season of reflection, repentance and resolution begins. Begins with Christopher saying he's still not well enough to go to school, and me making arrangements for my parents to take him. Then backing out of the driveway, which is now like a tunnel with the massive piles of snow on every side -- imagine backing out of a garage that opens directly onto the street. Driving to work through streets that are barely wide enough for one car to pass, much less two.

After work it was worse, and I was hurried and cranky, trying to get some messages done and get the kids picked up and back home in time for Adventurers at 6:30 (that's the kids' club at church, which we are in charge of). The kids and I didn't get home till 5:15, only to find our driveway had been filled in again by the plough. The nearest sidestreet was now too narrow to park on, so I had to park down the road at the garage and walk three doors up to our house, with the kids and groceries, dodging traffic all the way. I was almost ready to cry with frustration.

We decided to call around and cancel Adventurers last-minute because it was just so difficult getting around, and that lifted my mood a little, as I knew I didn't have to rush to get supper. Still, the hectic afternoon had taken its toll on me, as I unpacked the groceries and realized I had bought ground beef, parmesan cheese, foccaccia -- all with the thought of having spaghetti for supper -- but had neglected to buy either spaghetti or sauce, thinking I had them both in the house. I didn't.

It's at moments like these that a handful of chocolate chips can do a world of good in soothing my cranky and irritable soul. Only, I'd given up chocolate for Lent, just so that I could grow spiritually by turning to God instead of Hershey's for consolation in moments like this. This was starting to seem like a bad idea.

I pulled my boots back on (Jason was home by this time) and slogged up to the corner store to get the necessary items. (The spaghetti and sauce, not the chocolate). Despite the rough going underfoot it was a beautiful evening, with a sky in such rich and incredible shades of blue I thought I would like to own a dress, or a crayon, or a painted wall in a colour called "February Twilight." I took a deep breath and thought how petty my little troubles are. I bitch and whine and moan about these dark cold weeks of winter, when some people live in a perpetual Lenten winter of real and painful troubles.

I could list dozens of people I know who are living with depression, divorce, abuse, addiction, pain, poverty, and children sick with things far more serious than colds. Not one of these things has touched my life and as I trudged through the snowy February twilight I remembered again how incredibly lucky/blessed (take your pick) I am.

Back in the kitchen, I put spaghetti on to boil and turned up my 80's Favourites CD while I washed a few dishes from the pile on the counter (did I mention that our dishwasher gave up washing dishes for Lent?) I was feeling OK by the time we hit one of my absolute favourite songs ever, a song I cannot be unhappy or cranky during: The Kinks' "Come Dancing." That song just makes me want to lay down every burden and dance.

Right on cue, as the first bars of the song played, Emma danced into the kitchen, holding out her hands for me to dance with her, and I did. In the dark window I saw a reflection of me holding my little girl, dancing together to a song we both love. I was almost ready to cry again -- not from frustration but from joy and gratitude.

I'd like to say I remained in a beatific state all evening, but later I was impatient and frustrated and cranky again, although still joyous and grateful underneath it all. That's why I need a penitential season. The sins I have to confess are not very impressive -- not the stuff of testimony meetings of "Unshackled!" episodes. I am ungrateful, impatient, short-tempered, self-absorbed and I complain too much. But I think I will get a T-shirt or a bumper sticker made that says:

Jesus Didn't Just Die for the Winos
He Died for the Whiners Too.

If you observe Lent, a blessed one to you. And if not, just get out and enjoy the February twilight, or better yet, come dancing.


Blogger Julius said...

Ahhh, Trudy.

This, along with your AToday article, is yum-yum good.

I'll link both to my Ash Wed post!

2:06 AM  
Blogger Tina Chaulk said...

Love it! You know, no one has to be grateful all the time, but I think those of us who remember to do it every so often, and notice the wonder of little moments like dancing in the kitchen, are happier by far.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Katrina Stonoff said...

Lots to think about. Like you, I grew up in a church that didn't follow the Litergical Calendar, and I still attend one.

The first I knew of Ash Wednesday was when I was 30-something and teaching high school. One of my students came in with a "smudge" on her forehead.

A few years ago, though, I attended a nondenominational church that loosely followed the calendar, and I loved it. Holy Week, especially, was astounding. On Maunday Thursday, the pastor washed the feet of parishioners (and we sang amazing music--I was lucky enough to be in an elite ensemble that sang from the high balcony). On Good Friday, the service ended with all the lights turned off suddenly, and the repeated clang of a hammer on a spike. We left the service in silence and darkness, and didn't see one another again until the Sunrise service.

But...giving up fiction?!! I'd rather give up chocolate anyday!

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Penny Wheeler said...

Ah, Trudy, my son sent me a link to this because he said "something at the end made me laugh." And because I saw that it was your blog I stopped working to read it. (I LOVE reading good writing.) I've never thought of observing Lent, but recently I have often thought that my sins were little annoying ones like impatience, whining, staying too busy, and using the excuse of being too old and tired to reach out to others.

That's why I love your punch line! I'm going to nicely letter it on a little card and put it on my desk.


1:22 PM  
Blogger TrudyJ said...

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone, and Julius, thanks for the link. Penny, I love the thought of my little saying on your desk, but it might take some explanation!

1:57 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Every second year I give up something I really hate anyway for Lent, just so I can feel successful. So this year it's cauliflower again (I alternate between cauliflower and coconut). Last year I gave up coffee, as last year wasn't one of the off-years that I get an easy Lent.

Truthfully, I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't give something else up, something meaningful. But when my daughter made a mention of a pancake breakfast I realized that I was too late to put much thought into it. Couple that with a recent slide into agnosticism (albeit with a deist bent) and Lent seems both extra-needed and extra-futile all at the same time.

Trudy, I loved this piece, thank you for writing it.

10:38 AM  
Blogger TrudyJ said...

Jamie, I was just looking through blogs I have printed off from Lent last year (yes, I print off and keep blogs and comments; obsessive much?) and I noticed that your plan was to give up smoking weed this year for Lent (clearly that was part of your two-year plan). So you can have all the cauliflower and coconut you want, just lay off the ganja, man. (I never know how to spell "ganja." How white am I?)

8:03 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Did I really say that?! Cool! So far I have been 100% successful.

You know what, though? One of my great regrets in life is that I have never tried smoking pot. I also happen to think it would be a REALLY bad idea for me to start such a thing at this time in my life, but I would have liked to know what the experience is like, and it smells so good....

1:59 PM  
Blogger TrudyJ said...

Gosh, you could come to any one of my classes and probably get the effects of second-hand marijuana smoke ... certainly if you like the smell, it's the place to be.

I have to say that's something I've never regretted not trying ... but I guess we all have our regrets about things we did or didn't do.

2:28 PM  

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